The mission of the Forensic Psychology section is to advance and disseminate scientific knowledge on psychological issues in the legal arena. This includes research that focuses on memory aberrations and their relevance to the court (e.g., eyewitness accounts, culpability of offenders with supposed memory deficits, lie detection, traumatic memory, malingering, suggestibility, competence of children as eyewitnesses), as well as on mental disorders (personality disorders, psychotic disorders, substance abuse disorders, autism-spectrum disorders) and how they relate to criminal recidivism and response to treatment. Members of this section not only conduct research in this domain, but also write expert reports in criminal and civil cases upon request from lawyers, the district attorney (‘officier van justitie’) or the investigating judge (‘rechter-commissaris’).
The Forensic Psychology section is currently led by Prof. David Bernstein, PhD and is embedded within the department of Clinical Psychological Science (chaired by Prof. Marcus Huibers, PhD). The academic reputation of the section is outstanding. The Forensic Psychology group of Maastricht is internationally renowned for its research on psychology and law related topics and excellent teaching programme. In addition, trainings in risk assessment and psychopathy are provided nationally and internationally.
Over the past years, the quality of judicial proceedings has been fiercely debated in Dutch society. It is the ambition of this group to communicate to triers of fact, politicians, but also lay people that psychology can improve this quality tremendously. This point was well articulated by the 2005 book of Merckelbach and Jelicic*, which was instrumental in influencing opinion leaders.
With regard to teaching in the faculty’s curriculum, the section is responsible for teaching the third year bachelor's electives ‘Psychology and Law in a Nutshell’ and ‘Forensic Psychology in a Nutshell’, as well as the master's specialisation ‘Psychology and Law’. For more information see Education.
The Forensic Psychology section is part of the Clinical Psychological Science (CPS) department at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience. The CPS department is involved in research and academic education in the area of experimental clinical psychology. Although the themes of CPS are quite diverse, their common ground is the experimental approach to the study of psychopathology. Next to the Forensic Psychology section, the department consists of three other sections: Eating Disorders and Addiction, Behavioural Medicine, and Clinical Psychology.
* Merckelbach, H., & Jelicic, M. (2005). Hoe een CIA agent zijn geheugen hervond en andere waargebeurde verhalen. Amsterdam: Contact.